Essay, Research Paper: Young Goodman Brown And Faith

Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Perceptions of Faith in “Young Goodman Brown” Throughout ones journey in
life, our individual perceptions of faith in God, in mankind, and in ourselves,
guide us along our path. In the absence of clarity of our faith, one is led to
believe the norm is what proves to be popular within a society. Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s, “Young Goodman Brown”, demonstrates to the reader, man’s
inherent attraction to evil, the intertwined depths of evil, and that a lack of
understanding of faith; can not only destroy ones life, but also steal from the
beliefs which binds us together in commonality. Even with a clear understanding
of the Puritan attitude, the reader is left with the dilemma that seems to
impose the idea, that faith in God alone is but a dogma in the absence of faith
in and an understanding of humanity. Therefore, we resolve that it is not good
enough to choose between good and evil; we must be all embracing of the doctrine
of faith and forgiveness, so that we can function in a contributory way within
our community. Is Young Goodman Brown’s encountering with the Devil merely a
test of his own faith? Or perhaps, is he simply intrigued by the mystique of
evil forces that lie outside the realm of what he considers acceptable behavior
in his Puritan times? “With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman
Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose”
(634). Through his writing Nathaniel Hawthorne is able to develop a distinct set
of doctrine that existed within the mind of Goodman Brown. Thus, the reader can
assume that one trait of Puritan Society is a lack of tolerance for forgiveness.
It is no wonder that Puritanism is known for a somber outlook on life, and a
tendency to be immovable. A Puritan Society might find it difficult to see
perfection in it’s own members, especially if they do not recognize their own
tendency toward hypocrisy. Young Goodman Brown’s perception of his faith
abandons him because he lacks a clear understanding of his experience in the
woods. So in his ignorance he simply continues to criticize others due to the
events that have taken place in his misguided life. He resolves that those he
had previously viewed as pious, are now hypocrites in his eyes. “Men of
dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and
filthy vice and suspected of horrid crimes” (640). It is clear that in the
absence of the understanding of the freewill of mankind, Goodman Brown sees only
immoral, sanctimonious, mischief-makers all around him. Thus, throughout the
course of his life, Brown is overwhelmed with the burden of judging those around
him. “A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate
man did he become” (642). Unfortunately, even though Goodman Brown’s ability
to withstand the allure of evil sustained him through his own perceptions of
faith, he lost something he can never regain; his belief in the goodness of
mankind. When faith is shaken, or lost, whether in religion as an institution,
or in ourselves for not being as constant as we think others are being, we
change somehow. Like losing one’s virginity, when the mystery of the church is
questioned, or made more real to us, like it was to Goodman Brown in the forest
that night, we are never the same. With a loss of blind faith comes the
realization of a world filled with the horrors we pray to rectify, only to
realize that we ourselves are as guilty as anyone. Our salvation comes with a
clear understanding of forgiveness and the communion of saints which enables
each of us to pick up the pieces of our unsuccessful attempts at perfection and
forge ahead in acceptance of a less idealistic coexistence.
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